It amazes me how much the local media does not understand how our government works.
They write stories and post on blogs about how contentious some of our debates on the dais get on any given Tuesday during Broward County Commission meetings.
One thing they do not realize is that a Florida law forces this to happen: It is called the Sunshine Law.
Unlike state legislators who are allowed to meet one-on-one in private, the Sunshine Law is very specific about local officials. They cannot meet or communicate at all on any issue coming up before our governing body. That means our very first discussion on the subject comes out in public. Some people are very passionate about certain issues but do not mistake that for anything other than a very healthy discussion.
Broward County government works differently than the state government.
I know, because I’ve had both jobs. In Tallahassee, everything looks like it runs smooth on the floor since all the deals were worked out ahead of time. In Broward County, we sometimes have very heated discussions and work out our differences in public.
On the local level, nearly all meetings are done publicly, openly and “noticed.” Typically, that means an ad in a local newspaper alerting everyone that the meeting will be taking place.
But for state legislators, both in the House and Senate, the rule says, “prearranged gatherings, between more than two members of the legislature” must be noticed to the public. That means two Florida senators or representatives can make a deal behind closed doors.
Ethics laws are getting more and more strict. They continue to tighten down activity from county officials, city officials and those on the local school boards and other government entities.
It’s time our state officials and state legislators are held to those same standards.Stacy Ritter Broward County Commissioner District 3